City Hall Annex and Old Courthouse

Like the Landing, the former City Hall Annex and Old Courthouse were two buildings the administration rushed to demolish before identifying a replacement plan. The January implosion of the 15-story City Hall Annex sent shards of metal and other objects flying into the air, destroying several windows in the adjacent Blackstone Building along Bay Street. The Mayor’s office issued a statement shortly thereafter indicating that the implosion went according to plan.

The Blackstone Building’s broken windows are no longer commercially produced, meaning that Environmental Holdings Group will now have to replace all the windows along the entire south side of the building. The cost and timeline for fixing damage associated with the demolition projects are not determined at this time, more than four months after the implosion.

What has been determined is that the former Courthouse building that City leaders deemed obsolete and useless has been much more difficult to bring down. The saying “they don’t build them like they used to” has held true for this building constructed with double-reinforced concrete that was also meant to serve as a fallout shelter. Due to the difficulties associated with razing the structure, the contractor has been granted a three month extension.

This brings us to the Mayor’s unrelenting charge towards demolishing the Jacksonville Landing. The city borrowed $1.5 million and placed it into the city’s Capital Improvement Program for the demolition of the three-story, 126,000 square foot festival marketplace. Chief of staff Brian Hughes claimed that once the City was in possession of the Landing, which has now occurred as of this week, that the entire structure could be razed in as little as four to six months.

Given the history of the demolition projects helmed by this current Administration, perhaps it is time to openly question whether the costs and timelines being boasted are realistic. The administration touted a price tag of $18 million to acquire the building, evict its small business owners, and demolish it. That cost has already been greatly exceeded; it will take more than $22 million once still-pending litigation over an adjacent parking is resolved this summer. The Mayor’s office quietly added to that price tag last week, by appropriating an additional $370,000 for operating costs now that the City is the building’s caretaker.

The Jacksonville Landing in 2016.

The reality is that the actual cost of the Mayor’s Landing deal is likely to continue to climb much higher, even before a replacement is planned. It is also more likely that the Landing is still standing by year’s end, and that once demolished, this iconic site will sit empty until well after the Mayor’s term has come to an end. And as for those hotel guests at the Hyatt? Not only will they have fewer restaurant and entertainment destinations to patronize on nights and weekends, they’ll now have to contend with the sounds of demolition on all sides of the hotel for the foreseeable future.

Article by Max Power.